After 23 Russian diplomats were flown out of Britain earlier this week, on a plane from Stansted — the final indignity, as one Twitter user noted — the ceremonial withdrawal of the international brigades continues. Today the EU has announced that is will be recalling its envoy to Russia.
It is not unusual at a time of rising tension, as now after the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, that you want to make a point of flouncing out or flouncing others out of your lesser airports. But it is the right way to go?
There’s not much point in having ambassadors in countries that are close friends, other than to throw swell parties and deepen already good relations. But with countries with which there are difficulties it would seem crucial to have someone on the ground to advise you on what’s going on and which way the winds are blowing.
One of the reasons John F Kennedy avoided war over Cuba was that he had a very good ambassador in Moscow through which to relay positions.
As our relationship with the Kremlin curdles, it is surely more necessary now than ever that we have somebody just across the Moskva river who understands what is going on there.
His or her primary purpose is not to deliver messages in attaché bags: it is to advise us on what messages should be sent and which should be suppressed: Boris Johnson’s analogy of the forthcoming World Cup with the 1936 Berlin Olympics, for example, which has caused another conflagration. No wonder Russia called it an “utterly disgusting statement” — more than 20 million Russians died because of the Nazis, in the same battle we were fighting. Those words will now reverberate in our joint histories. It might be better to sanction their dirty money that flows through London than to risk badly calibrated messages to Moscow from these shores.
Little Donald is the talk of the town
It comes to something when Donald Trump’s manhood is the talk of the drinks party circuit in London. There’s a rumour going around, being repeated by ambassadorial sources no less, that Stormy Daniels has pictures of Little Donald, which will be aired on US television on Sunday.
It might be Mr Trump’s biggest ratings smash yet, but how can a TV network in a nation half full of Bible bashers show nudity, let alone of that of the President with his pants down?
Will they pixellate it? And is there a pixel small enough?
Nordic elixir that gets my sap rising
From Monday to Friday I live a life of hedonism in London, knocking back the whiskey sours in bars across town. On the weekend I become ascetic, retreating to my cottage in the woods near Stroud.
While there this weekend I will be knocking back a rather different drink: birch water.
In Nordic nations this is the fortnight when you go and visit your trees and ask them for their elixir. I have several dozen birches — known as the tree of life. Over winter the roots of the tree have soaked up the rain and, just before the leaves burst out, the trunk is thick with water.
To tap it, you make an incision through its zebra-skin bark, stick in a short piece of hose and watch the sap trickle out drop by drop into a waiting vessel. Then you drink it fresh. It has a silky quality to it.
Whole Foods and its ilk now sell birch water and the internet claims it makes you fitter, happier and younger. I’m not so sure about that, but, because it comes just before spring, I always think of its taste as that of new beginnings. But no-one claims that it cures a London hangover.
A British passport fit for a prince(ss)
Who should make the new British Brexit passport? How about the firm that has been printing the invitations for the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, pictured? They could be written in calligraphy — and why stop there?
Let’s have a dress code for all bearers of this passport: uniform or morning suits. Then, finally, we will be British again. EU border guards will be able to spot us a mile away.